Leverage Physiology for Smart Drug Delivery

Zhen Gu
Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Thursday, February 9, 2017 - 12:00pm
Fitzpatrick Center, Schiciano Auditorium B

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Spurred by recent advances in materials chemistry, molecular pharmaceutics and nanobiotechnology, stimuli-responsive “smart” systems offer opportunities for precisely delivering drugs in dose-, spatial- and temporal-controlled manners. In this talk, I will discuss our ongoing efforts in using physiological signals, such as blood sugar level, enzyme activity and ATP gradient for on-demand drug delivery in a programmed manner. I will first present the glucose-responsive synthetic systems for biomimetic delivery of insulin for diabetes treatment. Bio-responsive transcutaneous microneedle patches will be emphasized. I will further discuss programmable delivery of anticancer therapeutics, the release of which can be activated in the tumor microenvironment or subcellular environment. Our latest studies on the local delivery of immune checkpoint inhibitors for enhanced cancer immunotherapy will be specifically introduced.


Prof. Zhen Gu received his B.S. degree in Chemistry and M.S. degrees in Polymer Chemistry and Physics from Nanjing University. In 2010, he obtained Ph.D. at the University of California, Los Angeles, under the guidance of Prof. Yi Tang in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. He was a postdoctoral associate working with Prof. Robert Langer at MIT and Harvard Medical School during 2010 to 2012. He is currently an Associate Professor and founding Director of the Translational Innovation (TraIn) Professional Science Master program in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. He also holds joint positions in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy and Department of Medicine at UNC. His group studies controlled drug delivery, bio-inspired materials and nanobiotechnology. He has published over 90 research papers and applied over 40 patents. Prof. Gu is the recipient of the Sloan Research Fellowship (2016), Pathway Award (2015) and Junior Faculty Award (2014) of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), Young Innovator Award in Cellular and Molecular Engineering of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES, 2015) and the Sigma Xi Young Faculty Research Award (2014). MIT Technology Review listed him in 2015 as one of the global top innovators under the age of 35 (TR35). GOOD Magazine listed him in 2016 as one of GOOD 100- “100 individuals who are improving the world through creativity and innovation”. His invention- “Smart Insulin Patch” was selected as one of the top 10 research images in 2015 by Science.